10 Best WordPress Forum Plugins (Compared)
Are you looking to add a community section on your WordPress site? Forums and discussion boards are a great way to boost user engagement and build a community around your site.
In this article, we’ve hand-picked the best WordPress forum plugins that you can use to build a community around your website or business.
Aside from the basic forum feature, we also made sure to find solutions that have advanced functionalities like question & answer board, custom social network feature, and more so you can build a community of your dreams.
Why Create a Forum on Your WordPress Site?
Online forums are an effective community-building tool where your website visitors can participate by posting questions, sharing solutions, new ideas, etc.
Your forum could be a Q&A (question-and-answer) platform, discussion board, knowledge sharing space, or a problem-solving support zone.
There are multiple advantages of adding a forum to your website.
First, your WordPress forum software will help users engage and participate on your website. When they participate, they’re more likely to come back, buy your products, and recommend them to their friends and family.
Second, it’s one of the most common and effective ways to provide support to your customers. When your customers have a technical or generic support question, they can hop into the forum and check to see if the issue is already posted. If it’s a new problem, then they can post and get their problem solved.
Lastly, it gives some SEO value to your website when a unique issue is discussed and the thread becomes popular. In many instances, forum threads outrank other types of content in search results. Sometimes, the user-generated content makes more sense than formal posts on your blog.
That being said, here’re the best plugins to add a forum to your WordPress website.
Note: You will need to have a WordPress website to use these plugins. If you want to start a new website, then you will need a domain and web hosting.
We recommend using Bluehost because they’re an official WordPress hosting provider, and they’re offering our users a free domain name and 60% off web hosting.
When it comes to integrating a forum into WordPress, bbPress is hands-down the best plugin for the job. It is a sister project of WordPress.org, which means that it’s built the WordPress way and uses the existing WordPress core to power your forum.
bbPress is easy to set up, easy to moderate and maintain, fast, and clean. Anyone can easily create a forum in WordPress using this plugin. If you need detailed instructions, we have a tutorial on how to set up bbPress in WordPress.
- Built for WordPress, bbPress utilizes the same WordPress core and follows the same coding standards as WordPress.
- It integrates with any WordPress theme without painful modifications. There are also some excellent WordPress themes for bbPress that you can use.
- More than 200 bbPress extensions available to do just about anything you want.
- Since it doesn’t have a lot of bloat, bbPress is fast and lightweight.
- You can easily create multisite forums and maintain them from one dashboard.
- It’s a free open source software, so you can use it unlimited for free.
- Not as feature-rich as full-fledged forum CMS like phpBB, Vanilla Forums.
- The core plugin has only the basic features, so you need to install additional extensions for more power.
BuddyPress allows you to build your own social network within WordPress. Just like bbPress, BuddyPress is also an official WordPress plugin. It follows the same coding practices and standards as WordPress.
With BuddyPress, you can create a full-fledged online community with user profiles, activity streams, user groups, messaging, and networking options.
Similar to Facebook, it allows your users to add friends, send private messages, create groups, and get notifications.
Best of all, you can use BuddyPress and bbPress together and create a feature-rich online forum.
- Easily integrates with any WordPress theme and plugin.
- Hundreds of third party BuddyPress plugins and extensions to extend the functionality.
- Lets you easily create a complete social network with activity streams, user profiles, social connections, groups, etc.
- It’s free and open source. Download BuddyPress for free and use it on unlimited sites, and also get regular updates.
- The core plugin lacks advanced features that you may need to build a full-fledged online community. To extend its power, you’ll need to depend on third-party plugins.
ForumEngine is actually a WordPress theme which turns your WordPress site into a discussion forum. It’s a powerful theme built specifically for creating a forum in WordPress. The theme shows the forum threads right on your website homepage.
With ForumEngine, you can create forums where users can interact in many ways like posting topics, questions, replying, liking or disliking a topic. It allows users to quickly search any topic in the list with Ajax live search.
It also provides a private space to your users where they can access and manage all their activities in the forum.
- It’s a full-fledged WordPress forum theme, so you won’t need to install any plugin to create a forum in WordPress.
- It provides plenty of styling options to change the appearance of your forum and make it look attractive.
- Plenty of widgets for adding forum statistics, categories, hot topics, etc.
- Allows you to display advertisements and earn extra income.
- It’s a forum specific theme, so it’s hard to create a regular business or eCommerce site with this. You can integrate it with your WordPress blog, but it doesn’t have options to display products, etc.
- It’s a paid theme. If you’ve limited budget, free options like bbPress and BuddyPress may be better options.
Simple:Press is a simple solution for adding a forum to your WordPress site. It comes with both free and premium versions, so you can choose the option according to your need.
Using Simple:Press, you can create unlimited forums, forum groups, sub-forums, private and public forums easily. You can also lock and pin any forum. To let you manage the users, it has a powerful user group and permission system. Your users can create extended profiles with timezone, and a lot more.
- Fully integrated into WordPress, supports WordPress registrations and logins.
- Supports both standard WordPress and multisite installs as well.
- More than 70 premium plugins are available to extend its features.
- Creates SEO friendly permalinks and includes many SEO features.
- The free version is fairly basic. You’ll need to purchase a premium plan to add advanced functionalities.
wpForo is a free WordPress forum plugin which comes with plenty of design and customization options. It features 3 design layouts for your forum: Extended, Simplified, and Question and Answer layout. Each layout has a unique design and features. Plus, there’re 6 set of forum color styles including dark style.
Using this plugin, you can easily create modern forums where your users can participate, get support, as well as contribute. Users can post questions, give answers, vote, subscribe to topics, and receive notifications, share topics on social media, etc.
- Available for free with options to extend functionalities by purchasing paid addons.
- Built-in features for search engine optimization (SEO), XML sitemap, caching, antispam, etc.
- Smooth integration with BuddyPress to allow more social networking features.
- Only basic features are granted in the free plugin. You’ll need to pay for advanced features like ad management, polls, user custom fields, private messaging, etc.
- The plugin settings are a bit complex for first time users.
Asgaros Forum is a simple WordPress forum plugin you can use on your live website. It’s the best forum plugin for anyone who is looking to add a lightweight forum page on their existing sites with ease. It’s super easy to setup and adds a feature-rich discussion board in WordPress.
- Simple and lightweight forum plugin for beginners as well as professionals.
- Simple yet powerful options available for content management, members, and permissions.
- Forum statistics to let you see how well your forum is performing.
- Multisite compatible plugin.
- It doesn’t have extensions to add more functionalities.
CM Answers allows you to create a powerful Q&A (question and answer) discussion forum in WordPress. The basic free plugin comes with enough features to quickly setup a Stack Exchange like forum on your website.
It enables users to post questions, answer the questions, vote, upload files, subscribe categories, send private messages, etc. As the admin, you can customize questions, answers, filter out unwanted content, and manage the users. If you want additional features like anonymous posting and payments, you can buy the plugin addons.
- Integrates seamlessly with most WordPress themes.
- Users can vote on questions and answers.
- Premium version has a lot more features including the ability to choose best answer, profiles, comments, social media login, etc.
- Your forum is limited to Q&A format.
- Most useful features are available for the premium version.
- Some reviews on the plugin’s page indicate that users found it difficult to use.
WP Symposium Pro is an alternative to BuddyPress. You can create your own social network using this plugin. Similar to BuddyPress or Facebook, it allows your users to create profiles and activity wall, add friends, set email alerts, join forums, and more.
The plugin is designed to work with any WordPress theme or plugin. This allows you to add it to an existing WordPress site.
- Highly customizable through shortcodes – change colors, fonts, buttons, etc. easily.
- Option to buy Premium version or individual addons to add features. Premium support available for paid version users.
- Documentation with videos is available on plugin’s website to help you get started.
- Many useful features need a premium plan.
DW Question and Answer enables you to create a complete Q&A (question and answer) system on your WordPress site. If you’re thinking of creating a system like Quora or Stack Overflow, DW Question and Answer is the right plugin to start with.
Unlike normal forum plugins, it allows your users to vote the answers, so that the best answer comes to the top and the less meaningful answers go to the end. For more details see our tutorial on how to create a question and answers site in WordPress.
- You can use the free plugin for creating a basic question answer system. Advanced users can buy the premium version for more features.
- CAPTCHA support helps you to combat spam.
- Great for providing support to your customers/ users.
- The free plugin lets you create just a simple forum in question and answer format.
WordPress discussion board is a free plugin you can use to create a forum. It’s easy to install and setup the plugin, so anyone can build a forum in WordPress without touching any code.
Using this plugin, you can allow front-end registration and login system to attract more users. To avoid spamming, it has options to restrict repost, moderation for comments, etc.
- Discussion Board theme specifically designed to go well with the plugin. You can also use this plugin with any theme you like.
- Comes with plenty of handy shortcodes for displaying forms, list of topics, etc.
- A paid version available for adding more options and possibilities.
- The free version lacks powerful options. You’ll need to purchase their premium plan for many useful features.
Important Advice on Building a Forum Website
Regardless of your choice of online forum software, you will need extra hosting resources to run a successful online community.
You can install all these WordPress forum plugins on a shared hosting plan. You can even run a forum quite effectively for a while on the same starter hosting package.
If you are just starting out and want to test the waters, then we recommend using Bluehost. They are one of the top hosting companies in the world and officially recommended WordPress hosting provider.
However, as more visitors use your forum, it will slow down your website and may even crash it. In that case, you will need to upgrade to a managed WordPress hosting plan.
We recommend using WPEngine. They are one of the top managed WordPress hosting companies in the world.
Our second choice would be SiteGround. They are an officially recommended WordPress and bbPress hosting provider.
Need help moving your website? See our article on how to move WordPress to a new hosting server without any downtime.
We hope this article helped you find the best forum plugins for WordPress. You may also want to see our handpicked list of best Analytics Solutions for WordPress Users.